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800 dairy cattle laid to rest in Clovis landfill

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Clovis’ city landfill has become a cemetery for more than 800 cattle.

That’s how many have arrived so far since the winter storm nicknamed Goliath hit on Dec. 26, Public Works Director Clint Bunch said.

Almost all day Monday, trucks full of muddy, stinking carcasses pulled up one after another and dumped the animals next to a bulldozer, which then crushed their frozen bones while pushing them into pits.

The bones breaking sounded like wooden fence boards, snapping in two — almost as sickening as the stench.

More will be coming, mostly from Curry and Roosevelt counties, but the final number of fatalities is anybody’s guess.

Some have guessed as many as 20,000 dairy cows may have been lost, just in eastern New Mexico. Texas dairy officials have estimated another 15,000 cattle have died from Lubbock to Muleshoe.

“I’m still really hesitant to speculate (on losses),” said Beverly Idsinga, executive director of Dairy Producers of New Mexico. “I just know it’s going to hit our producers hard. They’re still digging out right now, and trying to take care of the survivors.”

Dairy Farmers of America spokesman Walter Bradley said he’s not sure the deaths will number in the tens of thousands, but he knows one area dairy that lost 300 milk cows.

Also, tens of thousands of pounds of milk had to be poured on the ground because trucks could not get to the dairies, Bradley said.

“Another big number is we’ve got cows that were not milked for two-three days, so that’s also lost,” he said.

Bradley described Goliath as historically “catastrophic.”

“I’ve been here (eastern New Mexico) all my life and I’ve never experienced anything like it. People older than me have never seen anything like that either,” said Bradley, who is 69.

The region received 8 to 12 inches of snow, but sustained winds at 40 mph — one gust was recorded at 82 mph — caused 6-to-10-foot drifts in places.

Beef cattle seem to have fared better than dairy cows.

“The wind was a two-edged sword,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.

“While it was brutal, and the snow drifts were brutal, it cleared off patches of ground where the cattle could graze. For water, cows can eat snow when they’re thirsty enough.”

Dairy cows, however, are generally more confined and found themselves smothered in the drifts.

And the effects didn’t end with the storm.

“Right now everybody is just concentrating on trying to get the cows that survived back to giving milk, and get the milk to the processors that need it,” Bradley said.

And removing dead cattle.

“The Environment Department sent us guidelines. We have four choices — compost, bury them (on private property), landfill or rendering plant,” Bradley said.

Area rendering plants have more dead cows than they can use since the storm; the only realistic choice is the landfill, he said.

Words aimed at Goliath:

* “Our weather doesn’t get like this but every 100 years. Even if we had barns, their roofs would have been whipped off because of the 80 mph winds.” — Beverly Idsinga, executive director of Dairy Farmers of America

* “The people in the livestock business are in this business because they care about animals. I can’t even imagine the emotional stress the people that own these cattle are going through. They just had no way to protect themselves.” — Caren Cowan, executive director of New Mexico Cattle Growers Association


©2016 the Clovis News Journal (Clovis, N.M.)

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